Monday, June 8, 2009

Community Yard Sales - the Ultimate Eco-Shopping

I'm lucky enough to live in a high-density part of town (you can see our part of town mentioned in the documentary The Death of can even see our neighbours' house!) I'm luckier still in that the ratepayers association sponsors advertisement for a giant, community-wide yard sale once a year. Yard saleing is the ultimate in eco-shopping. Everything is re-used, and the odds are pretty good that anything you buy that day is being rescued from a landfill; the rule at our house was 'if it goes out for the yard sale, it's not allowed back inside'.

A community sale is even greener than just regular yard saleing since once you're there you often don't need to drive anywhere. My friend and I spent a profitable morning wandering our neighbourhood shopping at a LOT of different sales. We both did fairly well. I spent a grand total of $13.50 to pick up gifts for four different people for Christmas (I can't say what they were or I'd ruin the surprise for some of my readers). This doesn't finish their Christmas shopping, but it's all stuff I know they'll really enjoy. My friend picked up 12 board books for her daughter for a mere $2, not to mention clothing and toys. You just can't beat that for a morning's work! After the sales were finished a lot of people left what hadn't sold outside with a sign saying "FREE", which is where I picked up a personal finance book. :)

You can probably tell by this point that I'm a fan of the yard sale. However, there are DANGERS associated with yard sales, or as some call them gar(b)age sales. If you end up buying a bunch of stuff you don't need, that doesn't count as eco-shopping. If you don't need it/won't use it, don't buy it. It's easy to get carried away with the thrill of the hunt. I have bought way too many board games that we've never used. I always picture a nice party with everyone hanging out, having fun playing a board game, so I pick them up. It's never husband calls them bored games, which tells you how enthusiastic he is about my vision. Eventually I'll bring myself to part with some of them instead of letting them take up space in my basement. Maybe I'll have a yard sale!

There are some items that yard sales are absolutely perfect for providing. Children's clothes go for a song at most yard sales, I've bought pants and shirts for as little as $0.25 each, though $1 is more common in my area. These are perfect; for the most part kids outgrow the items well before they're worn out. Just be careful to check for marks or tears before buying, there's no return policy at a yard sale! Really, anything child related is usually a great buy at a yard sale. How can you go wrong for a playpen costing $10? (yes, it was clean and safe) I've seen a lot of car seats available, but since you don't know if they've already been in an accident or been roughly used, I'd be a bit leery of purchasing one. If you or someone you know is into cooking, odd kitchen items are also great at yard sales. There are a lot of people around who *thought* they'd like cooking or baking and only find out after they've purchased all the equipment that it's really not their favourite hobby. I picked up a mini-muffin pan just like this one for only a quarter! (And I do like cooking and baking so I use it). I was also really tempted to buy a karaoke system but restrained myself by picturing the look on my husband's face when I brought it home. Books can also be a really great bargain at a yard sale, but unless you plan on reading them multiple times or use as a reference, I'd just get them from the library.

If you've never been yard saleing before, give it a try this summer. You might find a great treasure, but make sure it's something you'll use! I've been yard saleing since the summer before I went away for school. We outfitted our entire first apartment with yard sale finds (bed, sofa, pots, dishes...everything a student needs, at a students budget!). Best of all, you'll know that whatever you purchase isn't using up additional resources. It doesn't get any greener than that! (Photo by eraut off of flickr)


  1. Enjoying your blog, Valerie - does make a lot of sense. I've tried to follow greener trails for many years and only put out minimal garbage every two weeks. With composting and recycling it has saved many dollars. Our curling club collects cans and bottles and we have realized a tidy sum from this project. I have now joined a greener fuel group and am realizing savings in gas dollars, better mileage and 40-60% lesser emissions. These are the times to be as green as can be!
    Good luck with your blog and I look forward to hearing more about your projects.

  2. Thanks Carol, I've been looking into mileage and fuel tracking lately myself. What kind of fuel group have you joined?